Predicaments Embedded in Western(ising) Societies
Eco Pax Mundi Agora is a holistic project that, to a greater or lesser extent, is sensitive to the predicaments embedded in the fabric of Western societies and Westernising ones, that is, to the predicaments present in a good chunk of the world. In view of the fact that these predicaments are indeed an intrinsic part of Western(ising) cultures, they are generally perceived as intractable. Hence Eco Pax Mundi Agora's insistence that they have to be tackled all together, preferably in the framework of a new paradigm. This paradigm must have many novel features, some of them based upon the wisdom of ancestral cultures, some of them based upon cutting-edge research upon carbon farming, at the forefront of innovation. For all the eclecticism, Eco Pax Mundi Agora believes that a leading tenet of this novel architecture is post-ecocidism. Eco Pax Mundi Agora is devised as an organisation eager to advance this nascent post-ecocidal architecture.
Below we describe the predicaments or 'pain points' (as they say it in marketing) to which Eco Pax Mundi Agora considers itself to be responsive.
A Glaring Ecocidal Anthropocentrism Epitomised in the Chemical Anthropocene
Western culture has been reaching more and more corners of the Earth as a result of several waves of colonisation and, more recently, financial globalisation. A salient feature of this culture is a contemptuous disregard for the waters falling from the skies, the ladybirds sunning themselves upon grass, the rocks that so beautifully keep a cove in place and the penguins that happily go about an ice sheet. The reader should take these four examples as a metonymy for all the creatures dwelling in the more-than-human world. To be sure, Western(ising) culture homogenises all this diversity teeming with life under different but equally downgrading banners such as 'nature,' 'environment,' 'resources' and 'natural capital.' Whilst the last two simultaneously bespeak a marked utilitarianism, the four banners denote downright anthropocentrism.
Anthropocentrism is a worldview where the human being takes centre stage whilst the more-than-human world is subject to the needs and whims of the former. Anthropocentrism leads to many ecocides. Faithful to the etymology of ecocide, where 'eco' means 'house,' 'abode,' 'dwelling' and 'cide' 'a killing', an ecocide may be tentatively characterised as the deliberate or unwitting perpetration of murder of any creature, like the ones listed above, dwelling in our great abode that is Mother Earth. If we add to this characterisation a due sense of the sacred that, it must be noted, has been a constant in virtually all non-Western(ising) cultures, ecocide is the murdering of any sacred creature dwelling in this great adobe that is Mother Earth. Against this background, we can assert that ecocide invariably entails desacralisation.
This ecocidal anthropocentrism pervading Western(ising) culture is epitomised in the growing consensus exhibited amongst scholars to relabel the current geological epoch the Anthropocene. The label succeeds in capturing the colossal and multifarious footprints that Man has been leaving upon the planet since industrialisation began, although some argue as far back as the Neolithic Revolution with the rise of agriculture. Exponentially, the human being has become a force driving the evolution of the planet as powerfully as geological forces do. Some quarters have aptly qualified this age as the 'chemical Anthropocene'. That is to say, not only does the release of greenhouse gases conform to an environmental threat but also the use of unprecedented amounts of chemicals. Both may easily lead to the perpetration of ecocides.
Industrial Activity, Deforestaion and Tillage lead to Anthropogenic Climate Change
One may consider anthropogenic climate change an ecocide in itself that, in turn, leads to a string of additional ecocides in view of the interpenetrated nature of planetary phenomena as the field of ecology has long evinced. Climate change is forced when man-made activities release an excessive amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ozone (O3). As a result of the burning of fossil fuels (petroleum, gas and coal) to power factories, plants, cars and trucks; deforestation for human habitat or agriculture; but also because of tillage activity in conventional agriculture, the carbon that would normally be permanently lodged in, or absorbed by, the soil and biomass is freed into the air in the form of CO2.
As we all know, this alteration of the carbon cycle is reaching a critical point. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change we are headed toward a rise of 3.7 to 4.8°C (or 2.5 to 7.8°C when climate uncertainty is included) by 2100 unless we undertake aggressive mitigating measures. The excessive amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is further leading to the ocean acidification, where the CO2 dissolves and lowers the water's pH and makes the ocean more acidic. In the past, ocean acidification occurred naturally but over much longer periods of time. It is occurring faster now than in the last 20 million years.
However, global warming and climate change alike are symptoms. Below we mention some of the causes of these symptoms. These conform to the conglomerate of human activities that make up the Anthropocene.
The Industrial Food System as a Leading Cause of Anthropogenic Climate Change and Loss of Arable Land
It has been estimated by Grain NGO that our industrial food system, with its steady land clearing and deforestation, tillage, introduction of GMOs, oil dependence, processing, packaging, refrigerating and retailing is responsible for a staggering 44% to 57% of anthropogenic GHG emissions. Similarly, the monocultures of corn, soybeans and palm oil common to industrial agriculture rely heavily upon chemical inputs in the form of fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. These chemicals pollute the immediate environment, endanger wildlife, and, through nutrient runoff, put multiple water species thousands of miles away at risk. It is thus apparent that our food system prominently contributes to the two salient environmental menaces of the chemical Anthropocene, thereby rendering the former a growing concern by many in the green movement including Vandana Shiva and Helena Norberg-Hodge.
Moreover, industrial agriculture leaves the land barren. According to Professor David Pimentel from 1956 to 1996, 1.5 billion hectares (3.7 billion acres) of arable land were abandoned because of erosion, exacerbated by the rise of industrial agriculture and artificial contaminants in the soil.. This area conforms to one-third of the arable surface of the planet. Added to this, it is estimated that an area the size of Italy is lost each year. This is in sharp contrast with the UN expectations for world food production that should increase from current levels by 70 to 100 by 2050 if it intends to feed the expected 9.7 billion people.
Financial Globalisation and Rural Exodus
As Helena Norberg-Hodge demonstrates in Local is Our Future, financial globalisation undermines food, water and energy security, further exacerbates climate chaos, and leads to unemployment. As a result, the world at large is experiencing a worrisome rural exodus which results in rapidly expanding urban sprawls with exceedingly large carbon footprints. We return to problematic human footprints below.
A Growing Western(ising) Population with Exceeding Ecological Footprints
The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. This growing world population is, importantly, subjected to an exponential process of enculturation of Western materialistic values (of which we speak below) largely as a result of financial globalisation. The upshot is gigantic ecological footprints. To be sure, if every one in the world lived like the average EU citizen, we would need 2.8 planets. If we took as paradigmatic the average American, we would need as many as 5 planets! The increasing appropriation of the more-than-human world to satisfy human needs and whimsical urges systematically destroys the Earth's ecosystems and jeopardises wildlife. To be more precise, it turns the wild world into industrial products that can no longer be part of the natural cycles.
Liberty Based upon High-Tech Gadgetry and Fuelled by the Development Paradigm
The liberal notion of freedom that circulates in Western(ising) societies is closely bound up with materialism and the related high-tech devices put at the disposal of individuals by the market. In this context of high-tech materialism, ownership of a car by a good number of adults, which is a crass abnormality from an ecological perspective, is easily given the societal go-ahead. This materialism must be understood within the frame of the development paradigm, where this has been exacerbated. Since the end of World War II and following what is known as President Truman's Point Four of his Inaugural Address of 20 January 1949, international relations have been guided by the development vision. Relevant passages of this Four Point are the following:
'Fourth, we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas'.
'The United States is pre-eminent among nations in the development of industrial and scientific techniques'.
'With the cooperation of business, private capital, agriculture, and labor in this country, this program can greatly increase the industrial activity in other nations and raise substantially their standards of living'.
This Inaugural Address was the first official document to divide the world between developed and underdeveloped areas. It is conspicuous from the brief passages just quoted that these so-called underdeveloped areas are only so from the perspective of techno-scientific know-how, the related industrial bases, the goods manufactures and the market economy put in place to ensure the existence of consumers and 'fantasy' money that can lubricate this very system. In this narrowly defined notion of the good life, poverty is indeed by default material and financial poverty, always significantly measured in number of dollars a day an individual enjoys, as though all cultures were ruled by an individualistic market economy. They aren't. However, the development framework is precisely devised so that those which aren't part of the market economy can be swiftly integrated into it. Against this backdrop, material and financial poverty is invariably portrayed as the ill and development by way of techno-scientific industrial goods as the saviour, and therefore, worthy of emulation. Debates upon the redistribution of financial wealth are systematically excluded. Let alone any modicum of appreciation of spiritually rich frugal living or the related self-reliance model as a paradigm to fulfil the needs of the community. It must be however noted that the sacred texts of most religions foster self-restraint and austerity as stepping stones for the spiritual life.
Be that as it may, since the aftermath of World War II and largely due to the growing preeminence of the US in world affairs (of which President Truman's Point Four is an epitome), both domestic and international policies have imbibed the development paradigm. NGOs have not escaped this fate, where a good number of them are devoted to enhance the so-called development of the so-called Third World. Important for our purposes her is to know that when the so-called environment started being a concern on which it was no longer politically correct to turn one's back, this development turned into sustainable development, a promise more recently reinstated by the United Nations's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. In section 'Beyond Sustainability: For the Erection of Post-Ecocidal Cultures of Love and Egoless Action,' we exhibit how the formula sustainable development is the unproblematised reversal of industrial productivity and, therefore, far from overcoming the development paradigm, it legitimises and further encroaches it.
Techno-scientific Aberrations Presented as Solutions
In the context of the development paradigm techno-scientific ways are presented as so-called solutions. Two pointed cases are geoengineering fixes for carbon sequestration and thus alleged climate stabilisation, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the larger context of industrial farming geared to an alleged enhancement of yields. As a matter of fact, geoengineering so-called solutions can be put on a par with GMOs. They belong to the same techno-scientific crusade. To be sure, by way of market spin, we were made to believe that only the industrial solutions to agriculture popularised as the Green Revolution, which included GMOs and their set of chemical fertilisers, could feed the part of the world that was facing famine largely, although that bit we weren't told, because of colonialist intervention. We now know that the first Green Revolution (there is another one underway) has left fields barren and many people unfed. Likewise, geoengineering is put forth as a so-called solution, whilst uncertainty about its effectiveness not least in the long-term is paramount.
However, these alleged solutions make multinationals rich whereas low-tech true alternatives including regenerative organic agriculture and permaculture empower people since small-scale farms in this paradigm are also favoured as they appear to be more productive than the large farms common in agribusinesses. Moreover, the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry are hampering the switch to renewable sources of energy, which largely also implies decentralisation of the grid and people empowerment at the expense of the market. The switch to renewables renders, at least partially, geoengineering redundant. It is no accident that a great deal of the funding for this technique comes from the fossil fuel industry. In this way, the techno-scientific industrial bases that sustain Western(ising) lifestyles can be rendered sustainable without being questioned. No wonder that Eco Pax Mundi Agora remains highly vigilant of techno-utopias, techno-science and its set of techno-fixes alike.
Conspicuous Consumption, Competitive Ethos and Extravagant Whims
The materialistic overtones that colour Western culture have given way to rivalling conspicuous consumption where celebrities, and following suit, ordinary people, compete to have more and increasingly more flamboyant garments, houses and cars as gimmicks to project themselves as better and unique in relation to their peers. This competition is not only senseless but has turned basic needs into extravagant whims including travelling to far-flung destinations. So let us have a look at the ecological impact of both air travel and the fashion industry.
Although air travel in the year 2020 only accounts for about 3% of global CO2 emissions and 8% of worldwide oil consumption, emissions from flying are going to triple by 2050 if demand for air travel keeps the same upward trend. Moreover, beyond the release of CO2 into the atmosphere there are two additional chemical phenomena associated with flying that also contribute to climate change. One is the emission of short-lived gases like nitrogen oxides, which can react with other gases in the air within a day of being released. When nitrogen oxides are released at altitude they can react with oxygen to put more ozone into the air, but can also remove methane. Ozone and methane are both greenhouse gases, so this chain of chemical reactions can lead to both heating and cooling effects. Unfortunately the net result when these processes are added together is to drive more warming. Subject to the atmospheric conditions, aircraft can also create contrails: clouds of tiny icy crystals. Research suggests that curtails could have an effect as pernicious as the carbon dioxide released during a flight.
Offsetting, by planting trees or restoring natural wildlands, will remove CO2 from the atmosphere. However, this strategy should be undertaken upon a massive scale to have any significant effect. Moreover, Eco Pax Mundi Agora remains wary of market strategies to tackle the ecodebacle. We believe in radical change that, faithful to the etymology of 'radical,' addresses the problematic from the root thereby delivering long-term stability.
The fashion industry with its sweatshops is responsible for.... climate change and ecological footprint
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